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10 orchestra -- FOR WEB/MD

By Tom Weber

weber@postbulletin.com

With plans to reduce its 2009-2010 season by two concerts, the Rochester Symphony Orchestra joins a growing chorus of arts organizations making significant cuts in its programming and personnel.

"We really thought it was the prudent thing to do to make sure we can get through the year," said Tony Sertich, executive director of the orchestra.

Instead of the normal seven concerts, the orchestra will present five concerts during the season, which runs from October through May. In addition, two part-time positions have been cut in the orchestra’s office, office hours have been reduced, and some musicians have voluntarily donated their performance fees back to the organization, Sertich said.

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"Individual giving, corporate giving and foundation giving — the bottom has dropped out of those three," Sertich said.

Ironically, ticket sales have remained steady."We sold out our last concert," Sertich said. "But ticket sales only make up one-third of what it costs us to put that concert on."

Other sources of revenue, primarily gifts and grants, would be expected to fill the void, he said.

"Since our concerts are not revenue-generating," Sertich said, "by reducing by two concerts, we’re reducing our expenses."

In the meantime, he said additional time and effort will be put into fundraising.

"Our labor costs are our No. 1 cost," Sertich said. "If we do a concert, we’re talking 80 people on that stage and they all have to be paid, and in some cases paid mileage."

The relatively good news for consumers is that ticket prices will remain fixed for the 2009-2010 season.

"We took a look at it and decided this is not a good year for raising ticket prices," Sertich said.

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The orchestra’s announcement comes on the heels of Rochester Civic Theatre saying they would cut their season by one show next year, as well as cutting a costume designer and set designer.

Earlier this year Masque Youth Theatre and School in Rochester will close this year after struggling financially.

And in the Twin Cities, St. Paul’s History Theatre will be one play short next season and jobs at Children’s Theatre Company and The Jungle Theatre, both in Minneapolis, are going unfilled.

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